By David Poole
Amidst cute animal videos and other light entertainment that comprises the bulk of YouTube views, every so often a documentary will hit YouTube that captures people's imaginations. The latest of these is a short technology documentary 'Humans Need Not Apply' by the compelling and anonymous C.G.P. Grey. At the time of writing it had over two million views, putting it firmly in the “viral video” category, which is rare for a documentary.
“Humans Need Not Apply” (HNNA) examines the role that technology will play in our future and, in particular, how advancements in robotics will make human labour obsolete across a range of industries. Whilst it attempts to provide a balanced argument, HNNA tends to focus quite narrowly on the key negative aspects of this scenario: a lot of people will be forced out of work.
Below are some of the main conclusions reached in the documentary and why they might not be quite as straightforward as portrayed:
"Humans Need Not Apply" certainly raises some excellent points and it's always a positive for people to be educated on how technology is likely to affect our lives in the future. However, the focus on how technology will displace humans as workers is only painting a small part of the picture.
C.G.P. Grey uses the horse as an example of an animal without a purpose, thanks to mechanical analogues. But, what is not factored in is the human animal's proclivity to adapt and evolve. We will not suffer the same fate as our trusty sidekick. While horses were not able to branch out and find new forms of gainful employment, humans most certainly are. What’s more, we are also masters of our economic and financial infrastructures. Therefore, it is not far fetched to imagine a future of shorter work weeks, guaranteed minimum incomes (for some), and a blossoming of new and unique work types. I for one am a work optimist, convinced that our creativity, passion, and adaptability will ensure stable economies, fulfilled work weeks, and valuable outputs for a long time to come.